idli sambar recipe | hotel style idli sambar | tiffin sambar recipe

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idli sambar

idli sambar recipe is a tasty & delicious hotel style tiffin sambar that is served with idli. apart from idli, this sambar can also be served with dosa, vada and pongal. the hallmark of this idli sambar recipe is the addition of freshly roasted and ground spices. tomatoes are also added and is a key ingredient in this recipe which gives a good taste in the sambar. this idli sambar recipe can be halved or doubled too. 

4.52 from 35 votes
total time:
50minutes

idli sambar recipe with step by step photos and video. idli and sambar is a combination made for each other. there are many ways sambar can be made. this idli sambar recipe is super tasty and can be served with south indian tiffin snacks like idli, dosa, medu vada, rava idli, rava dosa and pongal etc.

idli sambar

this idli sambar is also one of the best tiffin sambar recipe. this hotel style sambar was damn good with idli. oh yes, idli sambar and vada sambar are all time favorite at home. not to forget our love for dosa too.

the idli sambar recipe was shared by a reader friend priya who writes to me often. she was gracious enough to share her sambar recipe as well as this idli sambar recipe. the idli sambar recipe is adapted from revathy shanmugam’s recipe and priya was kind enough to translate and send me the recipe. i did make some changes in the recipe though.

at the first go, i adapted the recipe and it was so good, that i did get requests for it to make again. even today i make this sambar to go with idli or medu vada. i have updated the post with better pics.

tips for making idli sambar

1. in the recipe freshly roasted and ground sambar powder is made. this ground sambar powder adds a lot of flavor and taste in the sambar. if you are short of time, then you can use any sambar powder you have and make this recipe. i also make a simple and quick sambar recipe where i add homemade sambar powder. do note that the final taste of the sambar depends a lot on the type of sambar powder added. so use a good quality sambar powder or use your homemade sambar powder.

2. while roasting the spices for the sambar powder, roast in a heavy pan or a thick bottomed pan on a low flame. stir non-stop so that the spices do not get burnt. the spices have to be roasted till they become aromatic and golden.

3. tomato is one of the key ingredient in this sambar and they add a lot of flavor to the sambar. so please do not skip adding tomatoes. for the vegetables you can add any mix vegetables that are usually added in sambar. do try to add drumsticks if you can as in most hotel style sambar, drumsticks are added and they give a nice taste & flavor in the sambar. you can also add vegetables like carrots, green beans, flat beans, ladyfingers (okra), brinjals, potatoes, pumpkin, ash gourd, onions etc.

4. both tuvar dal and masoor dal are added in the sambar served in hotels. if you do not have masoor dal, you just add tuvar dal. you can also add some moong dal along with tuvar dal and masoor dal.

5. tiffin sambar is usually served with the tiffin snacks – idli, dosa or medu vada. but you can also serve this sambar with steamed rice. do give this recipe a try next time you make idli, dosa or medu vada or even steamed rice.

tiffin sambar

how to go about planning and cooking idli sambar

1. some preparation and planning are required if you want to have idli sambar for breakfast. so make the idli batter and ferment it in the previous afternoon or late evening (for winters) or night (for summers).

2. when the batter is fermented the next day, you can steam idli when you pressure cook the dal and cook the vegetables. i usually pressure cook dal first. then roast and grind the sambar powder. when the dal is cooking, i steam the idli and keep them stored in a casserole so that they stay warm. after making the sambar powder, i cook the vegetables and then make the sambar.

3. on busy mornings, you can make the sambar powder a day before and refrigerate. next day cook the dal (lentils) and vegetables. then make the sambar. when the dal and vegetables are cooking, you can steam the idli.

4. for making idli sambar, you can either make small mini idli or the regular idli. both taste good.

5. while serving idli sambar make sure the sambar is hot. the idli can be hot or warm. if the idli have turned cold, then sprinkle some water on them and warm them in a frying pan covered with a lid or in a microwave oven.

6. to make idli or any other tiffin breakfast food, you can check the following recipe links below:

while serving idli sambar you can drizzle a bit of ghee on top. you can also top idli sambar with some chopped onions. also garnish with some coriander leaves while serving.

if you are looking for similar recipes then do check:

idli sambar
4.52 from 35 votes
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idli sambar recipe | tiffin sambar

idli sambar recipe is a tasty & delicious hotel style tiffin sambar that is served with idli. apart from idli, this sambar can also be served with dosa, vada and pongal. the hallmark of this idli sambar recipe is the addition of freshly roasted and ground spices. tomatoes are also added and is a key ingredient in this recipe which gives a good taste in the sambar. this idli sambar recipe can be halved or doubled too. 
course side dish
cuisine south indian
prep time 20 minutes
cook time 30 minutes
total time 50 minutes
servings 5
rough calories per serving 372 kcal
author dassana

ingredients (1 cup = 250 ml)

for cooking lentils

  • ¼ cup arhar dal (husked and split tuvar dal or pigeon pea lentils)
  • ¼ cup masoor dal (husked and split red lentils)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1.25 to 1.5 cups water for pressure cooking - for a 2 litre cooker

tempering for tiffin sambar

  • 2 tablespoons oil (gingelly oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds (rai or sarson)
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (husked and split black lentil)
  • 4 to 5 curry leaves (kadi patta)
  • ¼ teaspoon asafoetida powder (hing)

for cooking vegetables

  • 1 large onion OR 10 to 12 pearl onions or shallots OR 90 to 100 grams onions
  • 3 medium tomatoes OR 220 to 230 grams tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 drumsticks - scraped and chopped in 2 to 3 inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot (gajar)
  • 6 to 7 green beans or flat beans - chopped
  • 1 medium potato - optional
  • 4 to 5 okra (bhindi) - chopped
  • 6 to 7 small brinjals (baingan or aubergine) OR 80 to 100 grams baingan
  • 1 to 1.25 cups water or add as required
  • salt as required

for tamarind pulp

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup warm or hot water

for sambar powder

  • 5 kashmiri chilies or byadagi/bedgi chilies OR 4 to 5 dry red chilies - reduce depending upon the heat in the chilies
  • 11 to 12 large curry leaves or 16 to 18 small curry leaves (kadi patta)
  • 1.5 tablespoons coriander seeds (sabut dhania)
  • 1 tablespoon chana dal (split and husked bengal gram)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  • ½ teaspoon whole black pepper (sabut kali mirch)
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
  • 2 teaspoons oil (gingelly oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil)

other ingredients for idli sambar

  • 1 cup water to be added later or add as required
  • few coriander leaves for garnish

how to make idli sambar recipe | tiffin sambar

cooking the lentils

  1. rinse both the lentils well and then add them in a 2 litre pressure cooker with 1.25 to 1.5 cups water and ¼ tsp turmeric powder.

  2. pressure cook the lentils for 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes until the lentils have softened and well cooked. 

  3. once the pressure settles down, open the cooker. mash the lentils and keep aside.

making tiffin sambar powder

  1. in a small and heavy frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil. keep the flame to a low. first, add the mustard seeds. 

  2. then add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, chana dal (bengal gram), fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies. 

  3. on a low flame stir non-stop and roast till the spices become aromatic and golden.

  4. keep aside to cool. don't burn the spices.

  5. once the spices cool, grind them to a powder in a dry grinder or coffee grinder. keep aside.

preparation for idli sambar recipe

  1. soak the tamarind in warm water for 25 to 30 mins.
  2. later squeeze the tamarind in the soaked water and extract the tamarind pulp. you can strain tamarind pulp and keep aside.

  3. chop all the vegetables. quarter the onions or halve the pearl onions. peel and dice the carrots and potatoes.

  4. dice the brinjals and add them in water to prevent discoloration.

  5. chop the tomatoes in small pieces.

cooking vegetables for idli sambar

  1. in a pan, heat oil first. add the mustard seeds and let them begin to crackle. then add the urad dal and sauté till they turn to a maroonish color.

  2. add quartered onions or halved pearl onions, curry leaves and asafoetida. stir and saute for 2 minutes till the onions soften a bit.

  3. add the tomatoes, salt and continue to saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.

  4. then add the veggies which take a longer time to cook (carrots, beans, potatoes, drumsticks etc) and saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.

  5. then add remaining quick-cooking vegetables like brinjals, ladyfingers (okra), pumpkin etc now. stir and mix. 

  6. add the tamarind pulp and 1 to 1.25 cups water. 

  7. season with salt as per taste. mix well. 

  8. cover pan and simmer until the raw aroma of the tamarind goes away and the veggies are almost cooked. 

  9. if the vegetables are not almost cooked, then continue to simmer till they are almost cooked. 

making idli sambar

  1. once the veggies are almost cooked add the ground sambar powder which we have already prepared. mix well. 

  2. add the mashed dal.

  3. add 1 cup water or as required depending on the consistency you want. the sambar which is served in the hotels is on the thinner side. for idli, dosa and medu vada you can keep the sambar having a medium to thin consistency. for serving with rice, keep the tiffin sambar slightly thick.

  4. stir and simmer tiffin sambar without lid for about 6 to 7 minutes or till it comes to a boil. stir at intervals. 

  5. check the taste of tiffin sambar and add more salt if required.

  6. meanwhile when the vegetables were cooking you can steam idli. both small-sized mini idli or large idli goes well with tiffin sambar.

  7. while serving place the idli in a serving bowl. pour sambar. garnish with some coriander leaves. you can even drizzle a bit of ghee on top. serve idli sambar hot.

  8. you can also garnish with coriander leaves and serve the tiffin sambar hot with medu vada or dosa.

recipe video

idli sambar recipe video


recipe notes

  • you can add your choice of vegetables.
  • instead of tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils), you can also use a combination of tuvar dal and masoor dal (pink lentils). even moong dal can be used. 

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preparation for idli sambar or tiffin sambar

cooking lentils for idli sambar

1. i took ¼ cup each of tuvar dal (arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils) and masoor dal (red lentils). you can also just take overall ½ cup of tuvar dal.

making idli sambar

2. rinse the lentils well and then add them in a 2 litre pressure cooker.

making idli sambar

3. add ¼ tsp turmeric powder and 1.25 to 1.5 cups water.

making idli sambar

4. pressure cook the lentils till they are soft and well cooked for about 7 to 8 whistles or 11 to 12 minutes on a medium flame.

making idli sambar

5. open the lid once the pressure settles down. the lentils should have softened very well, so that they can be easily mashed.

making idli sambar

6. mash the lentils with a spoon and keep aside.

making idli sambar

making tamarind pulp for idli sambar

7. take 1 tablespoon tamarind and soak it in ¼ to ⅓ hot or warm water for 20 to 30 minutes.

making idli sambar

8. later squeeze the tamarind in the water and you get the tamarind pulp. you can even strain tamarind pulp and keep aside.

making idli sambar

making tiffin sambar powder

9. in a heavy small frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil. keep the flame to its lowest. first add mustard seeds. mix and stir.

making idli sambar

10. then add the remaining whole spices – coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, chana dal (husked and split bengal gram). mix and stir.

making idli sambar

11. immediately add 5 kashmiri red chillies or 5 byadagi chilies (broken and seeds removed).

making idli sambar

12. next add curry leaves.

making idli sambar

13. mix very well. stir non-stop and roast till the spices become aromatic. your kitchen will smell fragrant while roasting these spices. once the spices are roasted well, you can also add 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh coconut or desiccated coconut. mix and roast for 1 to 2 minutes and switch off flame.

making idli sambar

14. keep aside to cool.

making idli sambar

15. once the spices cool, grind them to a fine powder in a dry grinder or coffee grinder.

making idli sambar

16. keep tiffin sambar powder aside.

making idli sambar

cooking vegetables for idli sambar

17. rinse and peel the vegetables. chop them and keep aside. you can use a mix of various sambar vegetables – drumsticks, carrots, pearl onions, yellow pumpkin, radish, green beans, ash gourd, potatoes, brinjal, okra etc. while cooking just remember to add the vegetables that take more time to cook first and later add the veggies which take less time to cook.

making idli sambar

18. for brinjals, chop them and add them to water so that no discoloration occurs.

making idli sambar

19. in a pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil first. keep flame to a low or medium-low flame. add the mustard seeds and let them crackle.

making idli sambar

20. then add the urad dal (husked and split black gram).

making idli sambar

21. let the urad dal turn into a maroonish color.

making idli sambar

22. then add quartered onions or pearl onions (whole or halved), curry leaves and asafoetida.

making idli sambar

22. stir and saute for 2 minutes on a medium-low flame.

making idli sambar

23. saute till the onions soften a bit.

making idli sambar

24. then add the chopped tomatoes.

making idli sambar

25. saute tomatoes for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium-low flame.

making idli sambar

26. next add vegetables which take more time to cook like carrots, beans, potatoes, drumsticks etc.

making idli sambar

27. sauté for 4 to 5 mins on medium low flame stirring often.

making idli sambar

28. then add remaining quick-cooking vegetables like brinjals, ladyfingers (okra), pumpkin etc now. mix.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

29. add the tamarind pulp.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

30. pour water.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

31. add salt as per taste and mix well.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

32. cover the pan and simmer on a medium-low flame until the raw aroma of the tamarind goes away and the veggies are almost cooked. if the vegetables are not almost cooked, then continue to simmer till they soften.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

33. the vegetables should be almost cooked before you proceed to another step.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

making idli sambar

34. once the veggies are almost cooked, then add the ground sambar masala which we have already prepared.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

35. mix very well.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

36. add the mashed dal.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

37. mix again very well. also add 1 cup water or more to get the consistency you want. the tiffin sambar served in the hotels is usually thinner. for idli, dosa and medu vada you can keep the sambar having a medium to thin consistency. for serving with rice, keep the tiffin sambar slightly thick.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

37. stir and simmer tiffin sambar without lid for about 6 to 7 minutes or till it comes to a boil. then switch off the flame. stir at intervals.

making idli sambar, making tiffin sambar

38. meanwhile when the vegetables were cooking you can steam idli. both small-sized mini idli or large idli goes well with tiffin sambar.

idli for idli sambar

39. while serving place the idli in a serving bowl. pour sambar. garnish with some coriander leaves. you can even drizzle a bit of ghee on top. serve idli sambar hot. this tiffin sambar can also be served hot with idli, medu vada or masala dosa. you can even have this tiffin sambar served with steamed rice.

idli sambar recipe

dassana
Founder, Designer, Recipe Developer, Food Photographer ||

i started vegrecipesofindia.com in feb 2009. it is a pure vegetarian blog and shares recipes with step by step photos that will help you to make delicious and tasty vegetarian food easily.

i am passionate about cooking from childhood and learnt cooking from my elders. having a home science degree greatly enhanced my cooking & baking skills and took it to a different level which i now share as foolproof recipes. i was trained both in mainstream indian as well as international cuisines.


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124 comments/reviews

  1. It is good recipe by Dassana Amit

    • thanks.

  2. Hello Dear,

    I was thinking to write from long time… but finally I decided that I will write today..
    One of the top The Best site I ever come across till now…
    This sambar is so tasty that one of my frnd is using this recipe in their restaurant…

    I just follow your recipe and it will be hit…. thanks a lot….
    And most good thing in your site is your response for every comment… helps me to know how exactly will it be…..
    I cant praise you enough…. thanks alot again….
    Regards,
    Shreya.

    • thank you shreya for such a lovely and encouraging comment. it feels good when i get to read comment like yours and does encourage me to share better recipes. thanks again.

  3. Hi
    I prepared sambar…. It’s too good… Thank you for the recipe….. Can we prepare and keep masala powder in large quantities like 250gms……. In that case… How to prepare… Is there any taste difference?

    • thank you nalina for this feedback on sambar recipe. of course you can make the masala, but keep in fridge. just double or triple the proportions to make sambar masala. taste will be same. prepare sambar the same way as you have made this one. any query you can ask me.

  4. Hi Amit..recently I tried your veg cutlets it turned good and yum off course as always … Am going to try this today evening… I wana knw u mentioned to pour some water in step 14 but how much to pour a cup or more than that.. And u suggested not to use onions if fasting ?? .. Thank you plzz reply soon

    • thanks fazila for the feedback on veg cutlet. for adding water in the sambar, i have mentioned the amount in the ingredient list. its 1 cup water to be added later once you add the dal. you can add less or more water as per the consistency you want. onions can be skipped if fasting as per the hindu customs. so it becomes a no onion no garlic satvik sambar.

  5. Great recipe. Excellent explanation and wonderful guidance for newbies like me. Turned out amazing. No more $15 dosage trips. Thanks n cheers mate.

    • Thanks Vik for your positive feedback. Glad to know that you like the sambar recipe presentation.

  6. thanks for this perfect recipe. i wont be going to a south indian restaurant for idlli sambhar any more

    • Welcome Kirti

  7. Can you tell me what type of tamarind you use? Here in North America, in my local grocery stores, I can find the following: tamarind concentrate (the blackish brown shiny pulp), tamarind in the brown shell (looks like a large worm with a crispy black shell, with stringy material and large seeds inside), tamarind paste (comes in a rectangle tray, the tamarind is compressed into a large 1 inch thick rectangle which can then be easily torn into pieces).

    When you ask for a tablespoon of tamarind, what type is it? I have been using the paste, which I soak in boiling water in a bowl and strain out stringy fibrous material and some peels, not too many seeds. It seems to work well. Would you be able to send a photo of what the tamarind looks like when you buy it in the store? Apart from that, all other ingredients are available locally.

    I love your recipes!!!!

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